Using Your Tongue To “See”

by Brendan James

When we really try, humans can perform echolocation à la bats and dolphins, like blind man Daniel Kish in the above video:

We can’t match the 200 or so clicks per second achieved by bats and dolphins, but it’s not really necessary. Kish, for one, simply makes a clicking noise every few seconds, with interludes of silence when he doesn’t need to get a new picture of his surroundings.

From there, the sound waves produced by the click are broadcast into our environment at a speed of roughly 1,100 feet per second. Shot out in all directions, these waves bounce off the objects, structures and people around the echolocator and arrive back in his or her ears. The volume of the returning click is much quieter than the original, but those with proper training readily identify the subtle sound. And although it might seem amazing to be able to analyze these sound waves to generate a picture of the environment, some of the basic principles in play are concepts you already rely on everyday.

Previous Dish on how the blind utilize other senses here.